| KIRSTEN: To bat at No. 3
Johannesburg: New Zealand will be playing for survival when they take on South Africa in their World Cup group B match at the Wanderers Sunday.
Defeat would almost certainly mean elimination for New Zealand, who have lost against Sri Lanka, unless they change their stand about playing Kenya in Nairobi Friday.
It’s a crucial game for South Africa too, who have also lost a match, against the West Indies. A win would keep alive the hosts’ hopes of finishing top of the pool, following the West Indies’ defeat against New Zealand, while defeat would mean they would have to beat Sri Lanka on March 3 to ensure a slot in the Super Six.
There is a third possibility — that rain could prevent a result. There is a 40 per cent chance of thundershowers.
New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said after the West Indies match that it had been a relief to achieve the first victory in 14 matches in South Africa, going back to the 1994-95 season.
He said the players were under a lot of pressure. “Anxiety levels were high.”
Fleming said that although his team lost five matches out of six against South Africa in a triangular series last season, following a 5-0 series loss in South Africa in 2000-01, they were confident. “We’ve got a lot of information on South Africa, but it’s going to come down to competing for long periods,” he said.
South Africa’s preparations were disrupted by an injury to star fielder and middle-order bat Jonty Rhodes who is now out of the tournament.
“Jonty will be missed, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “He was a quality player and very much a part of the spirit of the side. “Graeme Smith on the other side is a similar kind of person. He’s very bubbly and gets the boys going. I’m not saying he can replace Jonty but, although it might sound harsh, we’ve got to put sentiment behind us and move on.
“Jonty played a part, but this 15 that go ahead are the guys we must focus on. In a way, we must forget about Jonty and concentrate on what we’ve got,” Pollock said.
There is also concern over the form of veteran fast bowler Allan Donald, who with Rhodes was the only man to have played in all of South Africa’s earlier World Cup campaigns.
Donald is likely to be recalled after being dropped for the match against Kenya but the loss of Rhodes will mean a new batting order.
Smith, who replaced Rhodes, is likely to open with Herschelle Gibbs, which will mean Gary Kirsten dropping to No. 3, with Boeta Dippenaar moving from three to fill Rhodes’ position at five.
SOUTH AFRICA: Shaun Pollock (captain), Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs, Gary Kirsten, Jacques Kallis, Boeta Dippenaar, Mark Boucher, Lance Klusener, Nicky Boje, Allan Donald, Makhaya Ntini.
NEW ZEALAND: Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Scott Styris, Chris Cairns, Lou Vincent, Chris Harris, Brendon McCullum, Andre Adams, Daniel Vettori, Jacob Oram, Shane Bond.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (West Indies), Peter Willey (England). Third umpire: Daryl Harper (Australia).
Match Referee: Wasim Raja (Pakistan). (PTI)